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Big East year-end rankings: Offensive line

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
I'll conclude the year-end rankings for the offensive side of the ball today by looking at the best of the league's offensive lines. I'll take them as a group since I'm not smart enough to know the nuances of interior line play or to know how to compare a center to a left guard. (And, yes, I know I'm leaving out tight ends, but that was not a very strong position in the Big East this year anyway).

1. West Virginia: This was expected to be a dominant group with last year's line returning intact. Instead, it struggled a bit to get used to the new offensive schemes. Still, the Mountaineers led the league in rushing and allowed the fewest sacks, so guys like Ryan Stanchek, Greg Isdaner and Mike Dent (before his neck injury) must have done something right.

2. Connecticut: Surprised? Don't be. Who do you think opened all those holes for Donald Brown? And the Huskies' hogs did a decent job protecting the quarterback, even though UConn couldn't pass much. Will Beatty was a first-team All-Big East tackle, and Moe Petrus was one of the league's top freshmen at guard.

3. Pittsburgh: This is a group that developed into a pretty sturdy line as the year went on, with Jason Pinkston and Joe Thomas coming on strong at tackle and C.J. Davis being invaluable inside. He moved to center from guard after Robb Houser got hurt, and the Panthers barely missed a beat.

4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats' line was one of the most underrated elements of the team's success. Yes, it allowed the most sacks in the Big East this year, but Cincinnati also passed more than any other team. Seniors Trevor Canfield and Khalil El-Amin held down the right side, while junior Jeff Linkenbach was strong at left tackle.

5. Rutgers: By the end of the year, the Scarlet Knights were doing a very good job of giving Mike Teel time to pass downfield, led by big left tackle Anthony Davis. But it took several weeks for the unit to get going, and Rutgers had trouble scoring the first half of the year because of those problems.

6. South Florida: With four starting seniors, you'd think this line would be rated higher. But there were some injuries throughout the year, and the design of the offense doesn't really call for the Bulls' big uglies to do much smash-mouth blocking.

7. Louisville: The Cardinals' had two first-teamers on the All-Big East squad in Eric Wood and George Bussey, so what was the problem? The other three linemen were inconsistent at best, and quarterback Hunter Cantwell rarely had time for more than a three-step drop.

8. Syracuse: I hate always having to rank the Orange last, and this line did develop some toughness in the running game this season. The good news is that three-fifths of the starting unit was filled by sophomores, so this is a group that can improve under new coach Doug Marrone.